"A king like you has policy prepared on everything. What's the official line on sodomy? How stands the crown on boys who do with boys?"
Richard came as close to weeping at that moment as ever he had come in his adult life. Hidden from his father's sight behind the heavy tapestries that hung about the four-poster bed in the guest room at the castle in Chinon, he listened in silence while a perfect memory was reduced to dust and ashes.
"Imagine snuggling to a chancred whore," he heard Philip say, "and bending back your lips into something like a smile...."
Nearly trembling with the force of his anger, Richard threw back the heavy curtain and stepped out into the room, fury and pain warring for supremacy within his breast.
It had not been like that! No, Philip's feelings for him then had not been feigned - to that Richard would swear by the cloth of the Baptist's robes. Philip had declared that he loved him, had looked at him with adoration in his eyes, and there had been nothing but sincerity in the boy's gentle touch and loving words.
Now, three years later, amid the nest of vipers that masqueraded as the Plantaganet family's Christmas Court, nothing but cruel lies sprang forth from Philip's traitorous mouth - "I never loved you," he said - and Richard vowed that when next they met, he would see Philip on his knees before him, begging his forgiveness.
When next they met, it was Richard who found himself on his knees before the young French king.
Jerusalem had fallen, and Richard had been one of the first of the Christian princes in Europe to call for a Crusade. Shortly thereafter, Philip also took the cross - as did Henry, in fact, although the English king's decision seemed to have been born less of faith than of political expediency.
It would have been a greater indication of Richard's holy purpose had he been able to vow with any degree of sincerity that personal considerations had no place in his decision to swear fealty to Philip - that it was only Philip's dedication to reclaiming the Holy Land for Christendom that drew him to the French campaign - but by 1188 the tempestuous history between the French and English kings had once more come to a head, and Richard was forced to choose between his old friend and his father.
For Richard, there was little choice to be made. His long separation from Philip had finally come to an end the year before, and it was by Philip's side that Richard wished to be.
It always had been.
"Now at last I believe what heretofore has seemed incredible," Henry said with disgust, upon receiving confirmation of his son's rekindled 'friendship' with the French king.
But Richard, putting all thoughts of his father aside, fell to his knees before Philip.
When first they met...ah, when first they met.
Paris was, that summer, much the same as Richard remembered from his seventeenth year, when he and his older brothers - joining in rebellion against the King, their father - forged an alliance with King Louis VII of France. This alliance left the Angevins opportunity enough to taste the food, drink the wine, and sample the delights of the women and men of Paris, but Richard was interested in none of that, his attentions fully occupied with making his father, King Henry II, rue the day he dared to invade the Aquitaine.
If pressed, Richard might have been able to conjure up an old memory of Louis's young prince, but it would have been a memory made of mist and shadows only. The boy had been no more than eight or nine then - a small, shy creature, barely ready to leave the nursery and certainly not yet ready to join the world of men.
When Richard returned to Paris, Philip was a child no longer.
He had been crowned King of France the previous year, when his father Louis, weakened by paralysis, had not even been strong enough to attend his son's coronation. He was engaged to be married to Isabel of Hainsault, the heiress to Artois, but Philip evinced no particular interest in the girl.
Instead, Philip turned his attentions to the English prince, seeking out his company constantly and begging him to speak of matters of state, history, and the art of war. Ordinarily, Richard would have dismissed such an overly enthusiastic puppy - even a royal puppy like Philip - but there was something so charming about the boy that Richard found he could not bear to turn him away.
In little time, Richard was surprised to discover he couldn't stand the thought of sharing Philip with anyone else. Each day for a week, he and Philip rode out at dawn. They traveled alone, with no attendants at their side, and each day, Richard took the lead. Philip, however, was quickly learning how to keep up with him.
On the seventh day, Philip's horse threw him, something she had never done before. Richard rode back and dismounted, then knelt beside the boy. The fall had knocked the breath out of him, and his eyes were closed, but apart from that, it didn't appear as if he had been injured very badly. There was no blood, no sign of broken bones.
Richard sat cross-legged on the ground, then he removed his cape and wrapped it gently around Philip.
His hands ached to touch the fair skin.
Surely there could be no objections if he smoothed a few errant strands of hair back from Philip's brow?
After what seemed like hours, but could only have been a matter of a moment or two, Philip's eyelashes fluttered open.
"Your hunting skills are still abysmal," Richard said, his barely whispered words leaving white puffs of breath just visible in the darkening late afternoon sky. "Your horsemanship needs improvement if you are to become a true hunter. Has it been your experience that prey will simply sit and wait for you to ready yourself?"
Philip raised one eyebrow, then tilted his head to the left and smiled, his white teeth glittering in the dusk.
Richard's breath caught in his throat.
"I suspect that any argument I might make in my own defense would fall on deaf ears," Philip said quietly, then reached out and took Richard's hand in his own. "Perhaps you might teach me how to trap the more elusive prey, instead?"
"You wish to learn this...now?"
"I do," Philip said, drawing Richard's hand toward him and pressing the broad knuckles against his soft lips.
Richard leaned over and placed a kiss on Philip's mouth.
"Philip, do you love me?"
"Yes, I love you," Philip said, slowly stroking the side of Richard's cheek with his free hand. "And I find you...beautiful."
Richard closed his eyes and took a deep, shuddering breath, before opening his eyes again and gazing down on Philip's clear, guileless expression. Some day, Philip would know all the ways a man could pleasure a man, but just this once, Richard was willing to be his teacher.
Just this once, Richard thought, as he got on his knees before Philip.